I brewed my first Irish Stout on Oct 22. I used the Nitro-Powered Stout recipe that Brian Smith has on his BeerSmith website. The only changes I made to the recipe is I replaced the Ultra hops with Saaz as my LHBS didn't have any Ultra, and I opted not to include the Gypsum since I don't know the composition of my tap water. The recipe calls for 6 lb of Dark DME and 1 lb of roasted barley. I steeped the barley for 30 minutes at 156 degrees F, then added the dME and boiled for 45 minutes. Everything went fine, the wort seemed like it would give me a fantastic Stout. Once through the primary for 7 days, secondary for another 7, then bottled for several weeks, it has this very strong taste of what has to be the roasted barley. I feel like if I strained it through a tea towel, there would be a film of barley there. The only thing I did different with steeping the grains than I've done before was to use cheesecloth tied up instead of an official grain sock or nylon bag. There was no leakage and it stayed tied the whole time. Any ideas on what could cause this, or is this normal for a homebrew dry stout? (I may have answered my own question once I remembered I used cheesecloth as a grainbag, is it possible it's not as fine of a mesh and there actually is a haze of barley floating in this brew?) Thanks for your answers.

  • Wow. GREAT question. I'm anxious to read everyone's thoughts on this one...
    – Brandon
    Dec 2, 2010 at 3:44

2 Answers 2


So I thought I'd toss in my ideas... First, the recipe, for those who didn't want to Google it:

6.00 lb Dark Dry Extract   (17.5 SRM)        Dry Extract      85.71 %
1.00 lb Roasted Barley     (300.0 SRM)      Grain              14.29 %

2.00 oz Ultra Hops           [4.20 %]          (45 min)         22.1 IBU

3.00 tbsp Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Boil 45.0 min)

Dry Ale Yeast (Nottingham)

The hops might play a slight part in that substituting Saaz for Ultra should give you a spicier flavor, and the sharpness might further underscore the harshness of the grain bill.

The gypsum only accentuates the hop bitterness, so not adding gypsum doesn't sound like a likely culprit for the graininess.

Furthermore, the substitution of cloth for a grain sock shouldn't make any difference. It lets the same compounds through. And even if there were a difference, most anything that you could let through would either be eliminated in the boil or settle out in secondary. Assuming you didn't do something like squeeze the bag and pull tannins, but we'll assume that's not that case.

However, I doubt any of those things are the problem. I have heard of flavor problems, though, with stouts made with only middle-colored and dark malts. I would guess that the attributes about the beer that you dislike stem from the use of only dark DME and roasted barley. Roasted barley will add a distinct nuttiness, which may be part of what you're tasting. That, combined with a base of biscuity, dark, DME are probably responsible for the grainy flavors you're getting. Most stout recipes build upon base malts, I think typically around 50-70% English pale malt. Can anyone verify that "Designing Great Beers" or "Brewing Classic Styles" shows that stouts should start with a strong platform of pale malts, rather than dark malt?

Unfortunately, I can't think of a good way to verify that's the problem aside from convincing one of your fellow homebrewers to make the same recipe, using their own methods (and preferably without the substitutions you made), and see if you still dislike the taste. That would almost certainly narrow it down to your distaste for the recipe itself.

I'd encourage anyone else who's read this far to contribute their thoughts.

  • Sounds like you've nailed it. And I think you're right, I have never seen a stout recipe that didn't use a pale base malt.
    – arnemart
    Dec 2, 2010 at 8:08
  • 2
    Brewing classic styles recommends pale extract for the base in stout and all beers. Color and flavor comes from specialty grains in all the book's recipes.
    – brewchez
    Dec 2, 2010 at 12:44
  • Yes, I have read somewhere that most beers including stouts can be done with pale extract. This hadn't crossed my mind since I was so hung up on the roasted barley. I'll definitely have to try this again with the pale malt. I guess I should really get a copy of Brewing Classic Styles. Thanks Brandon and brewchez for both your insightful answers.
    – Josh
    Dec 3, 2010 at 3:47

The problem in my opinion is the heavy usage of Roasted Barley with the use of dark DME. The dark DME has roasted malts in it already. While it is typical for a Dry stout to use up to 1# of Roasted Barley, in this recipe you've added more than that because the DME brought some to the party. When using colored malts, I tend to go easy on the specialty grains. The use of specialty grains with colored extracts is good for "freshening" the flavor, but you don't need to use them to the same extent you would if you were using just a simple base malt.

That said, if you sub in the pale-est extract you can find you'll still need to build back some of the flavors that dark DME has; a little crystal malt and the roasted barley as a start.

This is why you'll find some brewers recommending using just the palest extract you can find to build all your recipes from. You really have no idea what's in dark or amber or golden extract.

On a more technical note, the addition of 1# of Roasted Barley to dark DME may have also lowered your pH a bit more than expected and that is bringing a more grainy and astringent flavor out of the beer.

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